he fact that an artist can have a successful career beyond a debut album these days is often testimony to something greater than just talent. Fat Joe is one of the tried and true artists of our time, a man with over a decade of albums and a string of street-savvy hits. While some may deem leaving a major label relationship to be the end, Joe is striking up new beginnings with his own independent label situation and a fresh perspective.
By far one of the most vocal veteran artists on the scene, Joe has experienced his fair share of controversy. From the very public issues with members of his own crew to his stance on the state of New York Hip-Hop, Joe is determined to hold things together. He sat down with us after a four year sabbatical from AllHipHop.com to chop it up about everything you wanted to know, but might have been too afraid to ask.
AllHipHop.com: The biggest point of conversation right now amongst a lot of the veteran MCs in New York is about the state of New York Hip-Hop, and the relevancy in the market right now compared to southern Hip-Hop. You voiced your concerns about it in the past and youve definitely advocated that the Southern hustle is tight right now. What do you feel are the biggest challenges that New York artists have to overcome right now?
Fat Joe: [They] gotta make good music. Its too simple, I sit here and I listen to mix shows and all these rappers are rapping about the same things. You cant even tell the difference whos who, same kind of music. Every beat sounds like the same guy made it, even though different people made it. We basically gotta start making hit records, when you say the South is winning, the reason why youre saying the South is winning is because T.I. and Ludacris dont get along but theyre both dropping hit records and selling records. He got What You Know About That and he got your Money Maker, then you got Jeezy, Usher, and everybody.
[One camp cant] bring back New York. Nas gotta pop off, Jay-Z gotta pop off, Fat Joe gotta pop off. Like Jay-Z, if he pops off, fine Jay-Z popped off. Thats all that means – it doesnt mean that New York is a movement coming back. Everybody needs to get their grind on, make some big songs and hit records. I dont think just making music for New York – I dont think just making records to where youre gonna get played on [DJ] Absolut or whatever it is bringing New York back. You need somebody in Arizona loving your music, you need somebody in the South, in the West coast, the Midwest, somebody in Cleveland loving your music. Thats the only way to say New York will have a movement and be relevant when everybody is bumping your music. Im not talking about from New York to Philly – Im talking about the whole world rocking your stuff.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel as a New Yorker looking at what the South is doing from a business perspective?
Fat Joe: Theyre making great music, they got a stronghold and theyre not letting it go. Theyre not tryna pass that baton, so they keep coming and making great music. At the end of the day you gotta realize that its New York cats putting the South on. This is a business, so if New York rappers arent selling records or making great music every record label is from New York so theyre putting [the South] on because theyre making better music.
I just wanna hear hit records, that Jim Jones record [We Fly High] is a hit record. When I hear it and people go crazy, theres nothing you can do it about it. You dont even gotta like him – you know its a hot record. Lets move on, lets make some hit records, thats it. We need everybody making hit records in order for New York to come back, even the enemies. Other than that its a whole bunch of mumbo jumbo.
AllHipHop.com: How do you feel about the criticism that your song No Drama sounded too much like Rick Ross [Hustlin]?
Fat Joe: First of all, I aint never sounded like Rick Ross, Im Joe Crack. I got more hits than probably all the MCs you ever imagined to interview to be honest with you, so I could never try to sound like nobody. Rick Ross is just freshly in the game and I embrace him. My brother [DJ] Khaled broke him, hes my brother and I got major love for him. What happened was the beat was produced by The Runners, [who have] their own sound. I rapped on that because of The Runners sound, I would never try to bite Rick Ross or do what he did. It wasnt a single, we threw it out to let people know Joe Crack was coming.
The craziest thing about the thing is I dropped a straight New York boom-bap record before that called Damn thats straight crack music produced by LV, that not even New York embraced like that. So then I dropped a song that some critics said sounded like Rick Ross, and that caught spins all over the country. So its amazing when you break down who the critics are and what they want, and I feel like Joe Crack is always under a microscope. First of all you dont like me, [a lot of the critics] and you still got something to say about everything I do. Oh he wanna be south now, but you dont even give a f**k about me so why are you commenting so much on me?
Its amazing, because my peoples tell me about the internet [and what people are saying], so I said I gotta invite people down to listen to the album so they can hear the whole album and understand where Im coming from. Its amazing that Ive been more criticized about my music in the last two or three months than my whole career, and 150-200 people came down to the listening session [which is] more than I ever had. I dont know if they came to see if This is the end of Fat Joe or Lets see whats gonna happen, and its crazy. They all came through and they loved the album, they see what it is with Fat Joe and it is what it is. A lot of the guys on the internet is weirdos too, you got your guys on the internet that just talk s**t for no reason. It could be the greatest thing on the planet Earth, F**k that, I dont like it. Elvis is coming back, 2Pac is coming back, you can never grab these n***as. You cant necessarily believe all of them.
AllHipHop.com: Who are some of the young MCs that you feel have a potential for a career thats lasted as long as you?
Fat Joe: Its just really hard, I dont think you truly understand that the guy they criticize and the guy that they really dont think is that dope [has] been here for 13 years. I got multiple Number One hits in the country, I rock with whoever you need to rock with. Im the only rapper in the world thats ever got better and better every album and I know what it takes. Its a very rare and special breed, you gotta have passion for this and love the game. A lot of times in my career I could have just gave up and quit. Some of my best friends tell me Yo its over, it is what it is. You made some money, lets move on. Im looking at them like they smoke crack or something, you crazy Im here. Im a do what I gotta do. Mato told me I should retire, this is my right hand man. I wrote My Lifestyle that night and it was the craziest song on the planet Earth in the streets. I never listened and Im still here. It makes me stand up, whenever you count Joe out and put his back to the wall I come out swinging harder than ever.
It would sound real disrespectful [but] I could tell you over a thousand people who came in when I came in and theyre not here. So in order to stick around like Fat Joe, I cant tell you a MC that I heard spit 16 bars thats gonna be here 13 years later. I hear these n***as they get on a feature of a song, they spit 16 bars and the next thing I know theyre King of New York. Please, wheres the multiple classic albums, hit records or whatever the case may be? You want me to tell you that one of these new n***as is gonna be the next, I cant tell you – and honestly I dont see it. They gotta give me classic albums, s**t we never heard before, new vibes and everything in order for me to tell you Yo, this n***as gonna be here 15 years later.
Its too hard, some of the greatest in the game [like] Kool G Rap aint relevant today. Pun studied Kool G Rap and Pun is probably one of the nicest lyricists ever. Your Buckshot Shortys and them, theyre still doing their grind and theyre on the underground level, but I could tell you about guys who were on fire flame broiling and aint here right now. I could tell you about guys who sold 20 million records whos trying to come back but aint as relevant. Its almost impossible, somebody like LL Cool J is about the only one who got that longevity. Hip-Hop music, our fans if youre real fans and you love Chamillionaire right now love him 10 and 15 years from now. If you really love Bone Thugs N Harmony, keep supporting them and whoever you really love. The problem we got in Hip-Hop music is everything is new. So when they get the new gimmick, the new guy who got shot up or just came out of jail they run with it. Onyx sold four million records, I remember when Onyx couldnt perform. It was ram packed, the whole block n***as would start riots. Go help Sticky Fingaz right now, go buy his new record. Hip-Hop is very disloyal to the pioneers that made it happen, so I urge you to keep supporting them.
AllHipHop.com: There were different levels of dissatisfaction with All Or Nothing, I think the fans on certain levels werent as happy with that as your past works, and I werent happy with a lot of the situations surrounding the album. What do you feel could have been done differently as far as recording or promoting the album, and do you feel like things would have been a little different if Safe 2 Say had been put out as the first single rather than Hold U Down?
Fat Joe: Its hard to say, because first of all I feel like All Or Nothing was really promoted. I went out on the road on a promo tour for 60-70 days, touched the town multiple times. Safe 2 Say was a real hot record, but when you look at the world of music its so hard to come with a hardcore Hip-Hop song like that and get radio play around the world. Of course, major labels they stress that you gotta make a song thats gonna play on the radio. Lets take the f****t 50 Cent, he can do mixtapes all day dissing people but hell [make] Just A Little Bit because he wants to get played on the radio. The only person who could kill his wife, throw her in the trunk and get played [on mainstream radio] is Eminem. Other than that, something like Safe 2 Say was the hottest street joint you could drop, but that wasnt gonna get played all around the country.
The joint with Nelly [Get It Poppin], a lot of my fans was upset, but it was a hit record. I come from Diggin In The Crates, I come from hardcore Hip-Hop, but I also like to make songs for young ladies and make songs for the clubs. Thats my s**t too, so at the time I felt like I was definitely rushed into making that album. Atlantic was like, Yo hurry up give me the album, lets go with this and that, its a real radio driven record label to where they will definitely pick the song that they feel is gonna get radio spins. Thats the nature of the whole Hip-Hop game.
So if AllHipHop.com really wants to know, you can have a rapper that you really love come out with a hardcore single that aint getting no play, all their fans rush to the store and say he sells 250,000 records that week. The second week is reality land – the second week you come back and if you aint got a video or a record thats spinning on radio crazy then your s**t is gonna just drop dramatically and by the third or fourth week you the f**k out of here, have a nice day. As long as you aint selling records steadily or consistently, at least have some type of story with it that your record is going at radio or playing on video [the record label is] not gonna support your s**t. This is why some of your favorite rappers, you be like Damn I want them to come with that s**t thats on the album, and they just cant do it.